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27 Most Beautiful Places To Visit In New Zealand (2024)

If there was a prize for the most beautiful country in the world, New Zealand would be a strong contender. I spent over a month exploring the length and breadth of this incredible country and can’t wait to return.

New Zealand is a very easy country to travel in overall. However, with so many stunningly beautiful places in New Zealand, it’s hard to know which places to pick!

That’s why I’ve put together this summary of my favourite places in New Zealand. From Lake Tekapo and Doubtful Sound to the idyllic Bay of Islands, each of these spots will leave you breathless.

I hope this post whets your travel appetite, and inspires you to visit this ridiculously beautiful country in the future.

Beautiful Places In New Zealand’s North Island

The North Island of New Zealand is filled with lush green landscapes, stunning coastal views and bustling cities. Here are my top picks.

1. The Bay of Islands

Hidden away near the very top of the North Island is a subtropical paradise.

Beautiful sunny day in the Bay of Islands with lush greenery and calm sea
The Bay of Islands – stunning and untouched

More than 140 islands are dotted in and around the large bay formed between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula.

Here you’ll find untouched, golden sandy beaches, mangroves, walking trails, and an abundance of local wildlife.

The warm, sheltered waters of the bay are perfect for swimming, sailing, and sea kayaking. Whales and dolphins are frequent visitors, and you can take boat trips to see these amazing animals up close.

Dolphins playing in the Bay of Islands

The pretty little towns around the bay – Paihia, Russell and Waitangi – are historically significant, and culturally important to the Māori people.

The Treaty House in Waitangi has been the site of many important events in the history of New Zealand.

These include the signing of the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand in 1835, and the Treaty of Waitangi (which established the modern-day country) in 1840.

Despite being a popular holiday destination, the Bay of Islands feels authentic and unspoilt. It’s easy to escape the crowds and find your own secluded slice of paradise.

If you have your own car, from here it’s only an hour’s drive further northwest to Ninety Mile Beach. This incredible stretch of wild, untouched coast is one of the longest beaches in the world

2. Tongariro National Park

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is often described as the best one-day hike – or ‘tramp’ – in New Zealand, and one of the best in the world.

This 19.4-kilometre trek in the Tongariro National Park, not far from Taupō, traverses several active volcanoes, passing through some of the most stunning and unique landscapes I have ever seen.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing hiking trail crossing a mountainous volcanic landscape
You can trace the path up the right side of the mountain

The route is fairly challenging (moderate fitness required), with almost no shade and several steep sections.  

The path varies from easy boardwalks and solid steps in parts, to dusty ash and volcanic fragments. But the views more than make up for it.

Mount Ngauruhoe – the almost perfectly conical volcano, which is one of NZ’s most active – dominates much of the trek. 

You may recognise it as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings films. 

Climbing up the slopes of this awesome mountain, the path crosses lava flows, old and new, and there is evidence of volcanic activity everywhere.

View from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing looking down at the Emerald Lakes and the surrounding otherworldly landscape
Emerald Lakes – icy cold and coloured by minerals in the area

Some of the craters you pass look like the surface of another planet. Bizarre, colourful formations are everywhere, formed by magma and minerals forced up through the ground.

Towards the end of the walk, the path drops back down into rainforest with lush plants, trees and beautiful birdcall.  A total contrast to the dry, barren, lunar landscape you’ve just left.

Mount Doom and some epic scenery

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a seriously epic day hike.

A handy network of shuttle buses also provides transport to the start point, and back from the finish, making it super easy to plan the trip. 

Keep an eye out for the local weather forecast, wear decent hiking shoes, and bring lots of water and sunscreen!

3. Te Puia Thermal Reserve (Rotorua)

The Māori village of Whakarewarewa, on the edge of the town of Rotorua, is built on one of the thinnest parts of the Earth’s crust found anywhere in the world.

As a result, it’s one of the most active geothermal sites in New Zealand.


Although also a tourist destination, the village is home to several Māori families who live surrounded by the boiling hot springs, mud pools and geysers.  

The villagers use some of these amazing geothermal features in their daily lives

They channel water from the pools into outdoor baths – minerals in the water are good for the skin and have supposed healing properties.  

Ovens are also built over steam vents, which form pressure cookers.

Warning sign on the edge of the boiling hot geothermal pools in Rotorua

Pōhutu is the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere and erupts once or twice every hour.  Boiling water is shot 30 metres into the air, where it turns instantly to steam.

In places, the ground is hot to the touch.  Sometimes houses have to be evacuated as new geysers erupt from cracks, which can appear overnight.  It’s awesome to feel the power of nature at work in this place.

Steam rising from an eerie landscape of dead trees in Rotorua, New Zealand
Though it’s slightly sinister at sunset

In the town of Rotorua itself, Kuirau Park also has many thermal features, such as bubbling mud pools and steaming vents in the ground.  It’s free to explore and is a perfect place for a picnic.

The Redwood Forest Tree Walk is also well worth a visit.  This 700-metre-long walkway is made up of a series of suspension bridges high above the forest floor.  

It’s a magical and unique way to get up close to the 120-year-old giant redwood trees.  For more information, check out this post on 4 Degrees Of Destination.

4. Mount Taranaki

An iconic, symmetrical volcano enveloped by lush rainforest, Mount Taranaki, also known as Mount Egmont, dominates the landscape.

View of Mount Taranaki volcano with snow covered peak and blue sky

The mountain, a favourite among experienced hikers, presents a challenging yet immensely rewarding summit trail. It’s a pretty demanding climb requiring good fitness and proper equipment.

Besides the summit track, Mount Taranaki offers a range of trails catering to different fitness levels. The area also has several lodges and campsites.

In the winter, Mount Taranaki transforms into a snow sports destination, with skiing and snowboarding activities available when conditions permit.

5. Cathedral Cove, Hahei

Cathedral Cove, nestled on the Coromandel Peninsula, is an extremely picturesque beach framed by a natural rock archway. Only accessible on foot or by boat, it’s a fantastic spot for swimming and kayaking.

The hike to Cathedral Cove starts at the Hahei Beach car park and typically takes around 45 minutes. This scenic walk winds through lush coastal landscapes, offering wonderful views.

The Cove’s sandy beach is a perfect place to relax, and the surrounding caves and rock pools are fun to explore too.

Inside a large sea cave at Cathedral Cove, Hahei with blue sky reflected in the wet sand

To fully appreciate the beauty of Cathedral Cove, plan your visit during low tide. This timing allows you to see the impressive natural archway connecting two hidden bays.

If you have time, consider taking a kayak tour of the area. These tours offer a unique perspective of the Cove’s striking geological features and vibrant marine life.

6. Waiheke Island

Famed for its picturesque beaches, award-winning vineyards, and vibrant arts scene, Waiheke Island is a captivating destination.

A brief ferry journey from Auckland whisks you away to this enchanting island, offering an alluring mix of serenity and adventure.

The island’s beaches, like the serene Oneroa Beach and the tranquil Palm Beach, are perfect for relaxing in the sun.

Stairway leading down to a secluded cove on Waiheke Island, framed by lush greenery and overlooking the azure waters of the Hauraki Gulf, showing the island's tranquil and picturesque scenery.

Waiheke’s main town is dotted with art galleries, unique boutiques, and quaint restaurants and cafes.

Waiheke is renowned for its high-quality wines, especially its reds. Going on a wine-tasting tour is an excellent way to sample some of the finest New Zealand vintages.

7. The Coromandel Peninsula

The Coromandel Peninsula is a beautiful place of unspoiled beaches, lush forests, and attractive little towns and villages.

Take a ride on the Driving Creek Railway, New Zealand’s only narrow-gauge mountain railway. This scenic ride winds through the native kauri forest, offering spectacular views.

As well as Cathedral Cove (above) a highlight of the Peninsula is the unique Hot Water Beach. At low tide, you can dig your own spa pool in the sand, basking in naturally heated mineral water.

Coastline of the Coromandel Peninsula with clear sea and a picturesque beach

Another gem is the unspoiled and secluded New Chums Beach. Note, it’s only accessible via a walking track which involves a river crossing.

Also, don’t forget to savour the local culinary offerings, including fabulous seafood, in one of the excellent restaurants in the town of Coromandel itself.

8. Waipoua Kauri Rainforest

Enter the realm of ancient giants in New Zealand’s kauri rainforests. These forests are sanctuaries for some of the world’s rarest and most majestic trees – the kauri.

Native to NZ, kauris are known for their staggering size and age. Waipoua Forest is my favourite place to see kauri trees.

Several walking tracks meander through this towering forest, offering peace and solitude. I love the atmosphere here, there’s something about the calm, timeless beauty of the place that I find very powerful.

Ancient kauri tree towering above the forest floor in Waipoua Forest, with its massive trunk and sprawling branches

Te Matua Ngahere, or “The Father of the Forest,” is one of the oldest kauri trees, estimated to be over 2,000 years old.

There’s also a great trail leading to Tāne Mahuta, “The Lord of the Forest,” that I’d highly recommend.

Standing over 51 metres tall and estimated to be around 2,500 years old, Tāne Mahuta is the largest known kauri tree and is a truly awe-inspiring sight.

It’s important to follow the designated paths and use the cleaning stations as directed. This helps prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease, which poses a significant threat to these ancient trees.

9. Lake Taupō

The largest lake in New Zealand, Lake Taupō is a spectacular natural playground. Surrounded by beautiful forests, mountains, and volcanoes, this is the perfect spot for outdoor activities and adventure.

Renowned for its trout fishing, Lake Taupō is one of the world’s premier trout fisheries. Angling enthusiasts will find both rainbow and brown trout in these pristine waters.

For a different perspective of the lake’s expanse, consider a scenic cruise, offering panoramic views of the surrounding scenery.

A vibrant blue sky over Lake Taupo with a view of distant snow-capped mountains beyond, and a leafless tree in the foreground

Skydiving offers a bird’s-eye view of the lake and its surroundings while sailing and jet boating provide thrilling on-water experiences.

Just beyond the town of Taupō lies the awe-inspiring Huka Falls.

Here, you can see the Waikato River, which flows out of Lake Taupō, forcefully narrow and cascade over a dramatic drop. The thundering falls create a spectacular display of nature’s power.

Beautiful Places In New Zealand’s South Island

New Zealand’s South Island is a dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

With its rugged landscapes, pristine lakes, and towering mountains, this island offers endless opportunities for adventure and breathtaking views.

10. Kaikōura

Kaikōura is a small seaside town on the north-east coast of the South Island.  This former whaling station is today one of the best places in the world for whale watching.

Warm and cool water mix together in a deep oceanic trench just off the coast, which causes an upward current rich in plankton and fish.  Whales flock here to feed.  

Beautiful beach on a bay near Kaikoura with dramatic mountain scenery beyond
Beautiful scenery at Kaikōura

Sperm whales, which feed mainly on giant squid and small sharks, are year-round residents here.  

These amazing animals are massive (up to 16 metres long), can dive down to depths more than a kilometre below the surface, and hold their breath for up to 45 minutes.

Whale Watch Kaikōura organises fantastic tours in high-tech boats, using sonar to detect the whales’ calls.  

Seals and dolphins are also commonly sighted on these trips, as well as the occasional humpback whale and/or pod of orcas.  Highly recommended!

Tail of a sperm whale rising from a choppy sea on a whale watching boat trip
A sperm whale in the choppy seas

As well as the wildlife, Kaikōura enjoys a stunning natural setting.  The town has a dramatic backdrop of steep mountains, and the rocky Kaikōura Peninsula juts out into the sea.  

A great walking trail loops the peninsula, and takes about 3 hours to complete

Keep an eye out for albatrosses circling overhead.  A colony of New Zealand fur seals also have a favourite spot at the tip of this peninsula, where they sprawl out on beds of seaweed.  

Kaikōura might be understated, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.

11. Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo, in the Mackenzie region of the South Island, is one of my favourite places in the world.  I spent an unforgettable birthday here one year and absolutely had to include it in this list.

One of my favourite camping spots on the shores of Lake Tekapo

This idyllic little township is situated on the shores of a turquoise lake, framed by the Southern Alps.  It’s quiet, peaceful, and surrounded by nature.  

If you’re looking for somewhere to get away from it all, amidst some fantastic scenery, this place would be a good bet.

The lake itself gets its brilliant colour from minerals in the glaciers which feed it.  

On the shore lies the Church of the Good Shepherd, and a statue of a sheepdog – a tribute to the first shepherds who roamed this area, and their trusty dogs.

Fantastic views from the Mount John Observatory

Mt. John, rising from the western shores of Lake Tekapo has a path leading up to a famous observatory at the top.

From here you get an amazing view of the surrounding countryside and the mountains beyond.

Lake Tekapo is located in the world’s largest recognised Dark Sky Reserve and has the clearest night sky in New Zealand.  

It’s one of the best places in the world to see the southern sky, and the Southern Lights (if you’re lucky, between April and September).

Dusk descends on Lake Tekapo

For those with the gear, I highly recommend camping out under the stars here.  Drifting off to sleep under countless millions of stars is utterly magical.

Check out my guide to the best wild camping tents here.

In short… One of the best tents that money can buy is the MSR Hubba Hubba 2-person tent.

12. Wanaka

Wanaka is a pleasant lakeside town in the Otago region. 

Surrounded by the Southern Alps, thick forests, sunny vineyards, and the dramatic Mount Aspiring National Park, it’s a superb location for outdoor activities year-round.

Sunbathing on the beach at Lake Wanaka

Here you can hike, mountain bike, ski, kayak, skydive, fish, rock-climb, jet-boat, and mountaineer to your heart’s content.

The town itself hosts regular art and music festivals, and there are many quirky independent shops, cinemas, cafes, restaurants, and wine bars.

One of my favourite things to do in Wanaka is to walk around the lake until I find a secluded spot, to sit, read, and snooze, surrounded by nature.  

With the peaceful silence, mountains reflected in the lake, and the smell of flowers in the air, this place is pretty hard to beat.

13. Queenstown

Queenstown has the most incredible natural backdrop imaginable, situated on the shores of beautiful Lake Wakatipu, across from the jagged peaks of the Remarkables mountain range.

The undisputed adrenaline capital of New Zealand (maybe even the world?) is also a mecca for lovers of extreme sports.  

View of Queenstown and its dramatic scenery from a hiking trail in the hills above the town
Queenstown is freaking awesome

As well as being the birthplace of the first commercial bungee jump, canyon swing, jet boat, and tandem paraglide, Queenstown is famous for its close proximity to world-class hiking, biking, and skiing.

For excellent views over the town, lake and mountains, head up to Bob’s Peak (either via the Tiki Trail hike – which takes about an hour, or the Skyline Gondola).

Queenstown is a firm fixture on the country’s backpacker trail and can get quite busy during the peak summer season (between December and February).  

Travel outside these months if possible, and be sure to book accommodation in advance.

14. Te Anau

Te Anau, in the far south-west corner of the South Island, is the gateway to Fiordland National Park.  

However, most visitors speed through on the way to Milford Sound without so much as a second thought.  I think that’s a mistake.

Te Anau is also a really pretty little town in its own right, and there are many reasons to spend a day or two here.

A moody photos of Lake Te Anau on a grey day with low level clouds and a boat with red sails in the middle of the lake
A moody morning on Lake Te Anau

One of the highlights in Te Anau is a visit to the glowworm caves.  After a short boat trip across the lake, you enter a series of limestone caves lit by thousands of glowworms.  It’s surreal and beautiful.

Other activities nearby include mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, and horse trekking.  In the town itself, there are many great little restaurants and cosy pubs.

Lake Te Anau from the start of the Kepler Track
Lake Te Anau from the start of the Kepler Track

Several fantastic long-distance hiking trails also start from Te Anau, including the famous Milford and Kepler Tracks.

Bird sitting on a wooden post next to Lake Te Anau with mountains and forests beyond

15. Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park

No list of the most beautiful places in New Zealand would be complete without mentioning Milford Sound.

Mitre Peak in Milford Sound from the edge of the fiord on a fine day with clear blue skies and mountains reflected in the water
The iconic Mitre Peak looms over Milford Sound

Located on the South Island’s rugged west coast, Milford Sound is remote, wild, and absolutely breathtaking.

Photos don’t do the immense scale of this place justice.  The famous Mitre Peak rises almost 1,700 metres (over a mile) vertically out of the sea.

Catamaran tour boat in Milford Sound with clouds hanging part way down the vertical cliffs
Milford Sound is BIG

Fiordland gets between 7 and 9 metres (!) of rainfall every year, with an average of 250 rainy days per year.  But fear not!  This place is just as spectacular in the rain as when the weather is fine.  

Rainwater feeds the countless waterfalls which thunder down from the vertical cliffs into the sea.  

Some are mere white ribbons against the giant black backdrop, others cascading torrents which shake the air and send spray rolling across the fiords.

Towering vertical cliffs in Milford Sound with waterfalls tumbling into the sea
These cliffs are over a kilometre high!

Getting to Milford Sound is part of the adventure.  The 119-kilometre Milford Road – one of the most scenic in NZ – links Te Anau to the famous fiord.  Crossing Fiordland National Park, the scenery is epic.  

There are many one-way bridges and extremely tight corners, with sheer drops falling away from the road.  

Streaks of white water cascading down the dark black walls of rock give the place a raw, wild feel.  And every bend in the twisting, turning road reveals a new sight, each more impressive than the last. 

Waterfall crashing down a cliff into the sea in Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a place that you really need to see to believe.  Make sure you don’t miss it.

16. Aoraki Mount Cook

Aoraki (or Mount Cook) is New Zealand’s highest peak. Located in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, it offers jaw-dropping views of snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and alpine lakes.

Hiking trails range from accessible walks to challenging high-altitude routes, offering opportunities to experience the park’s rugged beauty up close.

Vast open plains with snow covered mountains including Aoraki Mount Cook in the background

The park, part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, also offers exceptional stargazing opportunities, thanks to its incredibly clear skies.

For a bird’s-eye view of the Southern Alps, scenic helicopter flights provide a breathtaking perspective, revealing the grandeur of the region’s glaciers and peaks.

17. Doubtful Sound

A serene and less-visited fiord known for its profound natural beauty, Doubtful Sound is a hidden gem in Fiordland National Park.

This majestic fiord offers a more secluded and serene experience compared to its better-known cousin, Milford Sound.

Calm waters of Doubtful Sound reflecting the lush green cliffs and distant snowy peaks under a partly cloudy sky in New Zealand

Doubtful Sound’s remoteness contributes to its quieter, more intimate atmosphere, allowing you to connect deeply with nature.

Accessible by a boat cruise from Manapouri followed by a bus over Wilmot Pass, this journey adds to the sense of adventure and isolation.

Once on the fiord, you can embark on a cruise or explore by kayak. From water level, you get epic views of the towering cliffs, dense rainforests, and cascading waterfalls.

Doubtful Sound is also a haven for wildlife. Keep an eye out for the Fiordland crested penguins and seals basking on the rocks. If you’re lucky, you might also spot pods of dolphins.

18. Mount Aspiring National Park

Mount Aspiring National Park, a wonderland of natural diversity, spans from glaciers and rugged mountains to alpine meadows and lush valleys.

It’s a haven for hikers and photographers, offering an array of trails that lead through some of New Zealand’s most breathtaking scenery.

Among the most celebrated hiking trails is the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. This track takes you through varied landscapes, including meadows, forests, and alpine environments.

A pastoral landscape with a flock of sheep grazing on the lush green fields of Mount Aspiring National Park with rugged peaks and a glacier in the background

Another notable hike is the Rob Roy Glacier Track, which offers views of cascading waterfalls, rugged cliffs, and impressive hanging glaciers.

Alternatively, boat tours on the nearby lakes offer a unique perspective of the park’s landscapes.

Mount Aspiring itself, the park’s crowning jewel, soars to 3,033 metres. This towering peak is a challenging and rewarding climb for experienced mountaineers.

19. Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park is a coastal gem with golden beaches and crystal-clear azure waters.

One of the best ways to experience the park’s diverse coastline is by trekking the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.

This well-maintained track meanders through native bush, over sandy beaches, and across suspension bridges, offering breathtaking views at every turn.

Curving sandy beach in Abel Tasman National Park with tree and greenery in the foreground

Kayaking is another popular way to explore the park, providing an intimate view of its secluded bays and coves.

Paddling along the coastline, you’ll see the park from a different perspective and discover areas inaccessible by foot.

The park is also a hotspot for wildlife watching. Keep an eye out for fur seals frolicking in the waters, pods of dolphins, and an array of native birds.

20. Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough Sounds is a picturesque collection of sunken river valleys, dotted with lush hills and secluded bays.

This area is a mosaic of natural beauty and tranquillity, making it a perfect retreat for those looking to relax and unwind.

The intricate coastline and sheltered inlets provide the perfect backdrop for sailing, kayaking, and even wild swimming.

Sweeping view of the Marlborough Sounds with its intricate waterways nestled between sunlit, rolling hills

For a different perspective, consider a scenic flight over the area, revealing the vast and intricate beauty of the Sounds from above.

On land, the area boasts numerous hiking trails, including sections of the famous Queen Charlotte Track, offering breathtaking coastal views and encounters with native wildlife.

The Marlborough region is famous for producing some of the world’s best sauvignon blanc. A visit to the local vineyards to sample some of these delicious wines is a must!

21. Punakaiki

Punakaiki, nestled on New Zealand’s rugged West Coast, is renowned for its unique and spectacular Pancake Rocks and blowholes.

This small coastal town attracts visitors with its remarkable geological formations, which resemble stacked pancakes, formed over millions of years.

Punakaiki's famous Pancake Rocks and blowholes on New Zealand's wild West Coast, with layered limestone formations standing against the powerful Tasman Sea waves and a mountainous backdrop.

While the Pancake Rocks are undoubtedly the highlight, Punakaiki has much more to offer.

Nearby beaches provide a peaceful retreat, while the network of hiking trails is a great way to explore more of the region’s natural beauty.

A notable trail is the Truman Track, an easy but scenic path that winds through dense coastal rainforest, leading to a secluded beach.

As evening falls, a visit to the Punakaiki Cavern should be on your itinerary. This small, easily accessible cave is home to a magical display of glowworms.

22. Tunnel Beach, Dunedin

Located just a short drive from the city centre of Dunedin, Tunnel Beach offers a picturesque and secluded spot for a day trip.

The main attraction here is a natural archway carved into the cliffs by the ocean, creating a tunnel that leads to an idyllic beach.

Dramatic natural archway carved into the rock at Tunnel Beach, near Dunedin, with turbulent ocean waters swirling below and a cloudy sky above

In addition to the tunnel and beach, the area is dotted with intriguing caves, arches, and rock pools just waiting to be explored.

23. The Southern Alps

Spanning the length of New Zealand’s South Island, the Southern Alps form a majestic and imposing mountain range offering endless opportunities for adventure.

This grand backbone of the South Island is a paradise for adventurers and nature lovers alike.

In the winter months, the region’s powdery slopes and varied terrain make it a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities.

Majestic view of the snow-capped Southern Alps and a lake with unusual cloud formations in the sky

As the snow melts, the Southern Alps reveal their rugged beauty, ideal for hiking and mountaineering. Trails range from short walks to challenging multi-day climbs.

Scenic flights over the Southern Alps provide jaw-dropping aerial views of the alpine landscapes, glaciers, and snow-capped peaks.

No matter what time of year you visit, the Southern Alps will captivate you with their natural splendour.

Taking time to simply absorb the vistas and the serene beauty of this iconic mountain range is an experience in itself.

24. Koekohe Beach

Home to the mysterious Moeraki Boulders, Koekohe Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to see some of New Zealand’s most unique geological formations.

These spherical boulders are scattered along the beach, creating a surreal landscape on the Otago coast.

Spherical Moeraki Boulders at Koekohe Beach, New Zealand, with pools of water forming little moats around the rocks

They’re believed to have formed on the seafloor from sediment and minerals around 60 million years ago. Over time, coastal erosion revealed these boulders, scattered along the shore.

Aside from admiring the boulders, you can also take a stroll along the beach and enjoy the peaceful coastal scenery.

25. Nelson Lakes National Park

Nestled in the mountains near the north of the South Island, Nelson Lakes National Park is home to two pristine alpine lakes, Rotoiti and Rotoroa, and many rugged peaks.

The park boasts a network of hiking trails, catering to all levels of experience and offering panoramic views of the majestic mountains and forested valleys.

Clean blue waters of a highland lake in Nelson Lakes National Park, surrounded by rugged mountains under a bright blue sky

A few of my Kiwi friends say that this is their favourite national park in the country. They often come here for fishing (both lakes teem with brown trout), camping, and canoeing on the lakes.

It’s also a great place for spotting local wildlife such as kiwis and kea birds.

26. Castlepoint, Wairarapa

Located on the scenic Wairarapa coast, Castlepoint is a wild and beautiful destination. It reminds me a lot of Cornwall or the dramatic coast of northwest Scotland.

White lighthouse on a rocky promontory at Castlepoint Wairarapa

The main attraction here is a photogenic lighthouse perched on top of a rocky outcrop. Over a century old, the lighthouse offers a fantastic vantage point for panoramic views of the sea and cliffs.

Take in the breathtaking views from the lighthouse and explore the nearby beaches and walking trails. Keep an eye out for local wildlife such as seals, dolphins, and seabirds, including the majestic albatross.

27. The Remarkables

The Remarkables, a dramatic and aptly named mountain range near Queenstown, are renowned for their jagged peaks and striking appearance.

This distinctive range forms a stunning backdrop to NZ’s adventure capital.

The Remarkables mountain range rising with jagged peaks covered in snow, overlooking a grassy landscape in the foreground

In the winter months, The Remarkables transforms into an exhilarating ski destination.

Come summer, the snow-covered slopes give way to a rugged, alpine landscape perfect for hiking and mountain biking.

For a truly memorable experience, consider a helicopter tour.

Soaring above The Remarkables you’ll enjoy a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the entire Queenstown region, the contrasting landscapes, and the sheer scale of these imposing mountains.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about where to visit in New Zealand.

Which part of New Zealand is most beautiful?

Many people consider the South Island to be the most beautiful part of New Zealand. It’s renowned for its stunning landscapes, from the majestic Southern Alps and the fiords of Fiordland National Park to the tranquil beaches of Abel Tasman National Park and the vibrant blue waters of Lake Tekapo.

Is New Zealand worth visiting?

Yes, New Zealand is definitely worth visiting. Its remarkable natural beauty, ranging from pristine beaches to dramatic mountains, and its rich Maori culture make it a unique and fascinating destination.

What is the number 1 tourist destination in NZ?

The number-one tourist destination in New Zealand is often considered to be Queenstown. Nestled on the shores of the beautiful Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by the Southern Alps, Queenstown is renowned for its incredible scenery, adventure sports, and other outdoor activities.

Where should I go for my first time in New Zealand?

For your first time in New Zealand, consider visiting Auckland for its vibrant city life and proximity to beautiful islands, Rotorua for its geothermal wonders and Maori culture, and Queenstown for adventure sports and fantastic landscapes. These destinations provide a well-rounded experience of New Zealand’s diverse attractions.

Which is the best time to visit New Zealand?

The best time to visit New Zealand depends on what you want to do during your visit. Summer runs from December–February, with warm weather ideal for most outdoor activities. If you’re interested in winter sports, June–August are perfect for skiing and snowboarding, especially in the South Island.

Final Thoughts

With so many beautiful places to explore in New Zealand, there are endless opportunities for adventure wherever you go. It’s high up on my list of places to return to.

Is there anywhere else you’d include here? Let me know in the comments!

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  • World Nomads – for adventurous travellers, covers 200+ activities that many other insurers won’t, such as skydiving, heli-skiing, rock climbing, rafting, scuba diving, cliff jumping, and kiteboarding (not available for residents of every country – check here).

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Who Am I?


  • I’m Alex Tiffany.  Former corporate city robot; lifelong travel addict.


  • I’m on a mission to make adventurous travel accessible to all.


  • I created this site to inspire, encourage and enable as many people to get outside and explore as much of our beautiful world as possible.